Success Story: GLA:D Program

A client from the GLA:D program called me, with much excitement in his voice, sharing that since completing the GLA:D program last year, he hasn’t been using the cane anymore. He said he has also been walking much better than he used to. He felt that the GLA:D program has changed his life because the exercises he learned from the physiotherapist have helped him immensely. Before the program, he was offered two options by the specialist, knee replacement surgery or steroids injection; he chose neither and instead he joined the GLA:D program and followed the exercises prescribed to him diligently. He has been feeling so much happier since then, and his mood has greatly improved.”   

From Klodiana Dibra, Community Health Worker 


GLA:D stands for “Good Life with Osteoarthritis”. Based on the success of the program in Denmark, the GLA:D® education and exercise program for knee and hip OA is now being made available in Canada. The program has been offered in various regions within Ontario for the past few years. Unison is proud to be one of the agencies chosen to deliver the program. Our work in addressing arthritis and osteoarthritis began in 2018 while Unison took part in the TC LHIN IDEAS Advanced Learning Program and participated in a quality improvement initiative. The West Region team identified that arthritis pain was the primary reason for the high ER admission at one of the hospitals in the area.  

While the team did not get to fully address the issue due to time constraints, Unison took this learning back to primary care and confirmed that a large number of our clients were indeed diagnosed with arthritis and osteoarthritis. A number of health promotion programs and partnerships were developed to attempt to address some of the challenges our clients were encountering, such as lack of knowledge and skills to self-manage pain, barriers accessing physiotherapy, and lack of motivation due to pain.  We partnered with the Arthritis Society to offer self-management education sessions and set up a physiotherapy clinic to see clients individually. We also developed an Arthritis Pain Management Program and have been offering it to clients suffering from arthritis pain in the last few years. The program is facilitated by an interprofessional team of physiotherapist, fitness instructor, social worker and registered dietitian and has benefitted many who participated in the program.  

In 2021, we were invited to be part of this GLA:D Canada initiative, a Ministry-funded pilot project in the Toronto region to ensure access for the underserved populations. As of Q3, with the support from a champion physician to help promote the program, we successfully increased our referrals from the primary care team to this program from less than 10 in 2021 to over 30 in this quarter. By end of Q4, Unison will have delivered four rounds of GLA:D, three in person and one virtually.  

The GLA:D program has not only improved our clients’ physical health and their quality of life, but also reduced the needs for knee and hip replacement surgeries. As for Unison, GLA:D has enabled us to work more collaboratively across teams and enhance our ability to deliver clinical group programs on a virtual platform. We are pleased to share that Unison will be funded by the Ministry of Health pilot project to continue offering GLA:D program in 2023-24.